What is runner’s knee?
Runner’s knee (aka chondromalacia patellae or patellofemoral pain syndrome) can be classified as an overuse disorder. Often, it refers to when there is a dull pain associated with the front side of the knee, slightly above or below the kneecap.
Patellofemoral pain is very common and 25% of the general population has experienced some form of it. As a result, sports medicine practitioners often have experience treating runner's knee.
What causes runner’s knee?
As stated before, although commonly found in runners (40% of running injuries are related to the knee!), runner’s knee can also happen to anyone who exerts repeated stress to the knee joint. This can include anyone that is regularly jumping, walking, skiing, biking or playing some form of recreational sports.
These stresses can be because of:
- a structural defect in the knee (flat feet or high knee cap)
- a certain way of walking or running
- weak thigh muscles
- excessive training or overuse
- knee injury
- tight Achilles tendons
- tight hamstrings
- incorrect shoes
Interestingly, women are more likely than men to experience runner’s knee. This is because the angle of a woman’s thigh bone is higher than that of a man, allowing it to exert much more pressure on the knee.
Symptoms of runner’s knee
The main symptom of runner’s knee is pain around the knee cap. You may feel pain when walking, resting, running or playing sports. Other common symptoms include:
- stiffness in the knee after sitting for a long period
- pain while squatting or climbing stairs
- rubbing or clicking sound around the knee when you straighten or bend it
- tenderness around the knee area if you push against the kneecap
How should you protect your knees?
There are preventative ways to protect your knees and reduce your risk of developing runner’s knee. Here are 4 ways:
Stretching exercises are helpful in improving the flexibility of your leg, whilst protecting the knee. They can help increase blood flow, decrease stiffness and enhance the movement of your joints. This can also delay the onset of muscle cramps and soreness. If you stretch before doing any strenuous exercise, you can reduce your chances of injury.
To get started, you should practice dynamic stretches (such as jogging and cycling) to warm up the area before any athletic activity and also static stretching (holding a stretch for 30 - 60 seconds) to strengthen the muscles.
#2. Using the right shoes
While it sounds obvious, exercising with the right equipment reduces your chances of injury drastically.
If you’re a runner, this means wearing the correct shoes that provide proper cushioning and shock absorption. Not only will they be more comfortable to exercise in, but your chances of developing runner’s knee will also be lowered.
#3. Following the proper form and technique when running
Besides using the right equipment, you should also be exercising with the right form and technique. When running, it’s best to try to keep a tight core and to avoid leaning too far forward or backwards. Trying to keep your knees bent will also help ease the shock to the area.
A good cool down after your run will also help your body adjust post-workout. Try walking or jogging after your run to recover. Without a proper warm-up and cool down, you’re more likely to cause pain to certain areas.
#4. Staying fit and healthy
Another cause of runner’s knee that we haven’t mentioned is obesity.
Obesity can contribute to the likelihood of injury as the extra weight on your body puts more pressure on your knees, making it more vulnerable to injury. Maintaining an optimal weight can, therefore, reduce your chances of developing runner’s knee. You can do this by practising moderate-intensity exercises and maintaining a well-balanced diet.
When should you consult a doctor?
If the pain in your knee doesn’t subside after a few weeks or it starts to interfere with your daily activities drastically, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible to prevent potential complications. Your doctor will conduct a physical examination, as well as perform blood tests, X-rays and MRIs (dependant case-by-case), to diagnose runner’s knee.
What are the treatment methods available?
- Rest to avoid stress and pressure on the knee
- Ice to reduce pain and swelling (best if you ice the knee area after a run)
- Compression to restrict the swelling (you can use a compression band around the area)
- Elevation to prevent further swelling
In addition to the RICE method, your doctor may also recommend painkillers depending on your situation. Knee pain exercises may also be recommended to help strengthen your knee.
How OT&P can help
Runner’s knee can be easily prevented and minimised with the right precautions, equipment and recovery methods. Running can be a great form of exercise when done properly to improve your health & wellness – but always listen to your body and don’t overwork yourself. More often than not, overworking your body can lead to more harm than good.
If runner’s knee is still troubling you even if you’re taking precautions and carrying out the treatment methods listed above – please seek medical advice. You can make an appointment with us at OT&P Healthcare; we have a range of specialists on hand to help you prevent injuries, exercise with the correct form and heal from the pain.